Do you like taking your camera and hitting the city streets, but find that your pictures of people and places just don’t have that wow factor? Street photography is notoriously difficult, but it needn’t be! With a few tweaks to your workflow you can improve your images and get those natural-looking, candid portraits you were hoping for. Here are a few our favourite street photography tips to help you along…
Quick street photography tips
01 Human element
It seems odd to have to say, but often we forget: good street photography has a strong human element. This is what separates street photography from architectural photography.
Instead of framing the crowds out of your scene, hang back and watch them for a while. Observe how people interact with these places and see if you can capture that engagement.
02 Don’t be shy
When you’re observing the crowds like we suggested above, our next bit of advice is to go join them. Don’t be shy! Shooting from a distance with a long lens will not only make you stand out, but your images won’t have the same intimacy and impact that they will when you physically move closer to your subjects.
So get up and mingle with the crowd. Be natural. Wait for your moment and be ready to capture it when it comes. Often we like to simply find a good location and wait for something to happen.
03 Use Program AE mode
Being ready to capture your moment when it comes means spending as little time fiddling with camera settings and more time watching. In these situations you need to react to moments very quickly.
To this end your camera’s Program AE mode is the ideal setting. With your Program AE mode you’ll fine a good balance of shutter speed and aperture, and you can make quick and simple adjustments by rotating the main dial.
04 Don’t be afraid of a high ISO
Modern digital cameras have become very good at controlling noise at higher sensitivity settings, and on a dull day a high ISO might be exactly what you need to get a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the action without resorting to a large aperture. Plus, you will also probably want to avoid blurring people as they walk, while also having enough depth of field to keep the background sharp to add context.
05 Multi-point AF
Setting your camera to its Multi-point AF setting is a staple of our street photography. It saves us lots of time focusing, which also makes you less noticeable.
06 Shoot from the hip
This is another good way to shoot without being noticed and can also make for some interesting, alternative angles of view.
07 Keep shooting
While on one hand we’ve suggested you wait for your moment, it’s also worth keeping your finger on the shutter button once that moment happens. Unexpected things can happen as a scene unfolds, and to capture them all remember to switch your camera to its continuous drive mode.
08 Stay safe
If you are more inclined to photojournalism and documentary photography, your street photography may sometimes take you into volatile situations. In these instances it’s always worth weighing up the risks. A violent protest or a drunken brawl might make for dramatic images, but you might also draw some unwanted attention.
09 Wrist action
And speaking of unwanted attention… if your goal is to blend in, then walking around with a camera strung around your neck will certainly let everyone know you are a photographer. Try tucking the strap inside an upturned collar – or better yet, using a wrist strap instead.
10 Know when not to shoot
Likewise, some security-sensitive locations prohibit photography and enforce this rule rigorously. Is it really worth risking a confrontation with a security guard? Also, remember to use common sense if you’re shooting outside a school or playground. You know you mean no harm, but other people don’t.
It’s also worth mentioning that if you ever plan to sell these images, you’ll not only need a model release form but a property release form as well.